Two nights ago a young pastor in our Presbytery was killed in a head-on collision as she was driving to a church meeting.
I had just met her a couple of weeks ago, at our initial gathering of a cohort of first-call pastors brought together for monthly discussions. Last week our little group led worship for our Presbytery and she celebrated the Eucharist.
She was graduated from my seminary the spring before I arrived there in the fall, and her mother graduated a few years earlier, so we have many friends and acquaintances in common.
Her church had been without a permanent pastor for years, and was thrilled to call her last fall.
Last night, the news still fresh, I was thinking about her parents and trying to remember the first couple of nights after Josh died. I don't recall much ~ just some bits and pieces, such as giving up all pretense of sleep and getting up at 5:00 am the first morning, the blur of people coming and going, that feeling of an impossible weight crushing my chest. And that sense that life had shattered into millions of irretrievable fragments.
And of course, I am remembering my mother's death in the same way as this young woman's, at about the same age.
And I am pondering the great gifts of ministry that will not be shared and, most of all, the parents left without the son and grandchildren she might have brought into their lives, without the companionship she might have provided as they aged, without the sound of her laughter or the steadiness of her gaze, without the touch of her hand, without the softness of her hair.
This morning, I woke up with the words "Blessed are those who mourn" floating through my head.
I will tell you the honest truth, and that is that I cannot reconcile the first and last words of that sentence. I could probably write an exegetical paper about them, dwelling on the meaning of the Greek and the reversals of expectation that Jesus insists upon. I could probably write a sermon about how the emptiness of loss makes space for the compassion of God, both the receiving and the sharing of it.
But, oh God, that emptiness. It is so vast and wide and the wind howls through it.